Study Links Ear Drops with an Increase in Resistant Bacteria

Newswise -- Eardrops, widely prescribed for the treatment of pediatric ear infection, can lead to an increase in resistant bacteria and fungi in the ear, according to Glenn Isaacson, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Temple University School of Medicine. Isaacson presented his findings Jan. 25, 2004 at the Eastern Sectional Meeting of the Society of Laryngology, Otology and Rhinology.

Traditionally, doctors have prescribed oral antibiotics for the treatment of ear infection, one of the most common disorders in children. In 1998, however, eardrops containing a very broad-spectrum antibiotic, fluoroquinolone, were introduced and billed as the treatment of choice. Recently, experts have raised concerns about overuse of the ear drops and the development of resistant bacteria.

"Resistant bacteria develop when antibiotics are used inappropriately. We were concerned because there was little study on the impact of these eardrops on bacteria and fungal growth in the ear," explained Isaacson, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Temple University Children's Medical Center.

A pilot study, which found a link between eardrops and ear fungus in children who had undergone ear tube surgery, prompted the researchers to explore the link further. In examining samples from children taken before and after the introduction of the eardrops, they discovered a significant increase in resistant bacteria and fungi in children who had used the eardrops.

To combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, experts recommend prescribing antibiotics judiciously, targeting them specifically to the individual types of bacteria. "Since ear drops containing fluouroquinolone are an important treatment for certain types of ear infection, proper usage is critical to preserve their strength and prevent the development of resistant bacteria," said Isaacson.

Overall, Isaacson recommends avoiding antibiotics when infections are minor; using oral antibiotics for ear infection in young children; using ear drops for ear infection in older children judiciously and combining ear drainage and antibiotics for recurring ear infections.

Source: Temple University